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To WiX v3.9 and beyond

When we first started talking about the WiX v3.x series and WiX v3.8 in particular, we were already behind schedule in getting support for Visual Studio 2013. That was the forcing function for WiX v3.8 itself: WiX v3.8 had to ship on a schedule and it wasn’t a schedule of our own making. Luckily, that’s just one reason to ship a release:

  1. To support a platform. For WiX, that’s primarily Visual Studio and Windows. It’s a time-boxed release with the time box outside our control and usually imprecisely defined. This was the case for WiX v3.8 though luckily we had a fairly precise time box.
  2. To make particular functionality generally available. Because a lot of organizations frown on “beta” software, there’s value in shipping when we have something interesting to ship. There’s no time box involved; it’s a judgment call based on the accumulated set of bug fixes and implemented features. WiX v3.7 shipped in this model, to release the support for self-updating bundles.
  3. To meet a self-imposed date. This is the classic Scrum time-box model: Every sprint produces a potentially shippable release and every so often, you ship one. The idea of shipping every so-many months is pretty powerful. It ensures users get updates on a predictable schedule. Even better, developers working on new features get them into users’ hands on a predictable schedule and don’t have to worry that what they’re working on won’t see the light of day for years.

So what does this have to do with WiX v3.x?

One of the things I was hoping to hear at the Build conference earlier this month is rough dates for the next “big” releases of Windows and Visual Studio. Rumors abound but it would be nice to plan WiX releases based on something a bit more firm. Assuming the rumors are semi-accurate, we have a year or so before we next have a schedule forced on us. I see three options:

  1. We slip the WiX v3.9 schedule into 2015, to support the 2015 Windows and Visual Studio releases.
Pros: We wouldn't have the extra work in doing two releases.

Cons: We would go a year and a half between WiX v3.x releases.
  1. We ship WiX v3.9 soon to give more time to the WiX v3.10 schedule.
Pros: It gives development time to when we (should) have more details about the 2015 releases of Windows and Visual Studio.

Cons: We'd want to ship WiX v3.9 in the next couple of months which means quickly ramping down on the scope of changes we'd take into v3.9.
  1. We give more time to WiX v3.9 and shorten the WiX v3.10 cycle to focus only on platform support.
Pros: We could keep taking bigger changes for another month or two.

Cons: Without official dates, we're reduced to reading tea leaves and entrails for planning. That leaves a bigger risk we could be unprepared if the rumored schedule changes or if the platform work takes more time than anticipated.

Given the pros and cons, I’m proposing option #2: We ship WiX v3.9 soon, in the June/July timeframe. That would give WiX v3.10 10 months (based on current rumors) to prepare for a new version of Windows and Visual Studio.

Feedback? Post it on the wix-devs mailing list. No matter your preference, if you have bugs or features you want to see implemented in WiX v3.x, go grab one and send a pull request. There’s no time like the present.